Almost two months ago, Fr. Robert Whipkey went for a pre-dawn jog at a high school track followed by a walk through downtown, when he was discovered by a police officer on patrol.
Ordinarily, this wouldn’t have been news, however, Fr. Whipkey was jogging in the nude and arrested by the officer for indecent exposure. In response, the Archdiocese of Denver has placed the pastor on administrative leave indefinitely.
Father Robert Whipkey, 53, faces an indecent exposure charge after a Frederick police officer encountered the naked cleric walking down the street at 4:35 a.m. on June 22.
The pastor said he runs in the nude because his large size makes him "sweat profusely" if he wears jogging clothes, according to a police report. Whipkey said he'd jogged around the high school track in the predawn darkness because he didn't think anyone would see him at that hour.
"I know what I did was wrong," he said, according to police.
The officer said when he shined his flashlight on the man, he covered himself with a piece of clothing he was carrying.
According to the Archdiocesean spokeswoman, Jeanette De Melo, Father Whipkey is on administrative leave from his three parish assignments for an undetermined period of time. This leave was granted and was made effective August 8.
"The archdiocese has been handling this situation and evaluating it from the very first day we got the information," De Melo said.
Asked if the archdiocese had received complaints about Whipkey, she said: "I know that there have been no allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.”
"Obviously, that is something that we are very, very attentive to and act on immediately whenever we have an allegation of sexual abuse," she added.
However, a little more than eight years ago, while Father Whipkey was pastor of St. Anthony's Parish in Sterling, the Archdiocese did respond to concerns of inappropriate personal behavior by Father Whipkey.
When the Archdiocese first learned of this matter eight years ago, the Archdiocese promptly brought the issue to the attention of the local authorities. No charges of any kind were made by. In addition, the Archdiocese of Denver convened its Conduct Response Team, which traveled to Sterling to investigate the matter and to visit with those who had raised concerns about Father Whipkey.
Details about the type of misconduct were not provided by the Archdiocese but they did say that, “Father Whipkey's conduct eight years ago did not involve any physical or sexual contact with another individual. Father Whipkey immediately entered therapy regarding his personal issues and his therapy lasted several years.”
“As part of that treatment, independent medical health professionals evaluated Fr. Whipkey; these health care professionals did not conclude he was a danger to others or should be removed from ministry, which was central in the Archdiocese's decision at that time.”